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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Abkhaz separatists blackmail Georgia and UNESCO - to save a unique ancient Georgian fresco they need to agree with the separatist's request first

Abkhazian separatists are finally willing to let UNESCO look closer at the restoration works at Bedia Monastery, built in 999 by King Bagrat III, but won't allow the team to enter from Georgian territory. Georgian authorities believe a unique fresco of the king has been destroyed during work to restore the complex

Bedia Cathedral (Georgian: ბედიის მონასტერი) is a medieval Georgian Orthodox cathedral located in Agubedia, in the Tkvarcheli district of Abkhazia, a Georgian region on the Black Sea coast, currently occupied by Russia with support of Abkhaz separatist groups.

Bedia Cathedral was originally built at the close of the 10th century and consecrated in 999 on the behest of King Bagrat II of Abkhazians, who would go on to become King of the Georgians as Bagrat III and who was interred at the church after his death. The extant edifices, however, date back to the 13th-14th centuries and include a domed cruciform church, a belltower resting upon the northern narthex and the ruins of an old palace. The southern wall of the main church contains fragments of contemporary murals, including the portraits of Bagrat II and the representatives of the Dadiani noble family of Georgia.

This complex was one of the cultural centers of Georgia for centuries and had its own unique library. Even more important, it has the only existing fresco of the first king of a united Georgia.

Georgia in 2008 expressed concern about the possibility that the monument could be destroyed, when there was information that Russia was going to conduct restoration works on historical monuments in Abkhazia.
Video footage was broadcasted by the Abkhazian TV channel 'Abaza' showing that the walls and frescos of the monastery were already painted, including the Bagrat III fresco.

In October 2011, media reported that after Ilori Saint George Church, restoration was going to be made to Bedia Monastery too. According to this information, the restoration works was going to be done by the company Tektonik from the city of Vladimir in Russia.

It is now being said by the Georgian National Agency for the Protection of Cultural Heritage that the fresco has been destroyed. The only fresco of Bagrat III collapsed due to mistakes made during restoration works, according to Giorgi Gagoshidze, spokesperson for the agency. He says they were reinforcing the walls of the church when the Bagrat III fresco was destroyed.

The Georgian government thinks the international community should be informed about this problem and get involved. Abkhazia lies in the northwest corner of Georgia and is currently occupied by Russia. Georgian jurisdiction therefore does not apply. Separatist authorities in Abkhazia are not willing to let a UNESCO team to come and save the fresco if they enter the occupied territory from the Georgian mainland. However, Nino Kalandadze, Georgian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister says that the cultural heritage issues are so severe and painful that the Georgian government is ready to discuss other ways to make it possible for the mission to go there, and therefore Georgia is ready to make an exception from the travel restrictions.

Georgia is now ready to make an exception from the travel restrictions and agree with the Abkhaz separatists blackmail. Georgia will let a UNESCO mission enter the territory in order to save a historical monument from the Abkhaz separatist barbarians. Unfortunately according to Kalandadze, UNESCO is unable to send a mission yet, because there are no safety guarantees, as the occupied region of Abkazia is not safe enough even for so well-known international organization, such as UNESCO.